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FALL, 1998: Volume 3 Issue 3

Peacemaking in the African Great Lakes Region by David Zarembka

In early 1999, FPTP will send a delegation to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and/or Burundi for the purpose of exploring a long-term peace team project there. At the invitation of African Friends, the group will explore ways to adapt and disseminate Friends-based peacemaking activities from the Alternatives to Violence Project, Children's Creative Response to Conflict, Help Increase the Peace, Listening Projects, and other forms of nonviolence training. Several workshops are planned during the delegation's visit, and if the group reports favorably on local conditions for a longer-term project, it will be considered at the April, 1999, meeting of the Coordinating Committee.

Approximately one quarter of the 2000 Quakers in Rwanda were killed in the 1994 genocide. About ten percent of the 10,000 Quakers in Burundi have been killed in the drawn-out conflict among the fourteen different factions now trying to negotiate a peace plan in Arusha, Tanzania. Most Kenyan Quakers live right next door to the Rift Valley Province where hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled politically motivated ethnic violence. This suggests a danger of massive ethnic violence in Kenya on the scale of Burundi or even Rwanda. What do we Quakers do about the trauma facing our brothers and sisters in Africa? An easier question is “Do we have any way to assist them?” The answer is “Yes.”

Alternatives to Violence (AVP) and Children's Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC), begun more than twenty-five years ago by New York Yearly Meeting, have been teaching prisoners, children, and others how to nonviolently resolve conflicts. In more recent years these programs have inspired related programs such as the AFSC's Help Increase the Peace (HIP) program which focuses on teaching nonviolence to teenagers. But are these programs useful in Africa? Hilary Wright writes about AVP in Uganda, “In some of our workshops we have had ex-military personnel, some of whom have come back from exile but find it difficult to fit back into normal life. Some of these participants have expressed how they have found AVP useful for them. For example, an ex-general said he realized how he needed to communicate to people in a different way now that he is a civilian.”

But do the African Quakers want our help and involvement? (Remember that French, rather than English, is the European language of Rwanda.) Rev. David Buccura of the Friends Church in Rwanda writes, “There are men peace committees, women peace committees, youth peace committees and children peace committees. We have this program until 1995, because our country will have Genocide. Many problems we have now are to build country in Peace and Reconciliation. We wait you coming help us, to train systems of Conflicts Resolution. Many are killed in the war 1994.”

David Niyonzima, the General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting, told Mary Lord, Baltimore Yearly Meeting's representative to the Friends Peace Team Project, “Burundi Friends have a special need for people who have skills at dealing with post-traumatic shock, and other trauma-related emotional illnesses.” This he sees as the greatest obstacle to reconciliation and healing. He has invited the Friends Peace Team delegation to visit Burundi and give a workshop on this topic to some of the 500 students in their Peace School.

There is much work to be done. Can we do it? FPTP will send an exploratory delegation to Friends and others in the Great Lakes Region of Africa to ascertain the possibilities of placing a long-term peace team in the area to promote training in conflict resolution, nonviolent peacemaking, and post-traumatic shock. The delegation will consist of at least four people who will go for the three-week exploration beginning at the end of December, 1998. In addition to speaking with African Friends, delegation members will offer some sample workshops. Those considering the possibility of being part of the delegation or wanting more information on the African Great Lakes Initiative should contact David Zarembka at the address below. The deadline for applications for the delegation is Oct. 15.

The concept of the Peace Team includes not only the “lucky” few who go on the delegation overseas, but everyone else who stays behind and supports the Team in the field with prayers, clearness, publicity, and fundraising. You can become part of this team-building by asking your monthly meeting's support/endorsement. This would mean three things:

Publicity: By bringing the Friends Peace Team Project's African Great Lakes Initiative proposal in front of a monthly meeting, the project would be publicized and Friends would be given a chance to comment on the plan. Since everyone knows so many other people, it would be a chance to ask Friends to forward the proposal to others who they think might be interested.

Building a Broad Base: If a long-term Peace Team Project is ever going to occur in Africa, it will take strong backing from a broad spectrum of Friends. Each monthly meeting that supports the project becomes one more block of a solid foundation. It would be good if the meeting would appoint someone as the contact person with the Friends Peace Team Project so that the flow of information can be channeled in an organized manner.

Fundraising: Naturally it would be nice if the monthly meeting would decide to back their support with a financial contribution, a fundraising event, and/or allowing the FPTP to use their meeting mailing list for a one-time solicitation for the African Great Lakes Initiative.

Contact David Zarembka at 17734 Larchmont Terrace, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, tel/fax: 301-208-1862, email: davidzarembka@juno.com with your leads, ideas, and support in doing what we Quakers ought to be doing.

For related earlier articles see:

Report on African Great Lakes Initiative, PTN v3i2

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